My journey from coaching small sided micro-soccer to full field 11v11 soccer was filled with many successes on and off the field that stemmed from following a set of rules that I outlined before I stepped on the field to coach.
Many first time coaches are unprepared and fumble through practices and games. This is not fun for anyone. Before starting practice there are a few things you can do so you don’t regret volunteering.
- · Outline expectations for the parents and the players.
- · Make a list of skills and goals for the season.
- · Make a practice outline.
- · Emphasize fun!
Meet with Parents
Hand out your outline of expectations and clearly discuss each item. Something I emphasized was parents’ game day behavior. I made a no tolerance rule for negative comments toward referees, coaches, or players. Make this a positive by stating your intention to make sure the kids are having fun. Kids are more likely to execute on the field if they hear positive feedback from the sideline. Cover any other rules or expectations such as hydration, game day nutrition, attendance and punctuality. The more informed everyone is from the beginning the easier it will be for you through the season.
Share Goals with Players
Outline the goals you have for the season, making sure they are age appropriate. The skills you are teaching should fall in line with the age group and the playing field size. Youth soccer today starts with a very small “micro soccer” field and progressively moves up from year to year in field size and number of players. On the first day of practice talk about what goals you have and let them tell you about their personal goals. You can poll the kids to find out what skills they feel comfortable with and what will be new to them so you know what you may need to spend more time on teaching.
Be Ready for Practice
Make a simple practice sheet on Microsoft word that you can fill in each week and print out. In your plan include warm-up, dynamic stretching, skills focus, skills games, and endurance games. Allot a certain amount of time for each phase of practice and have notes for what needs to be done to set up the next skill or game. I typically followed up another group on the practice field so I taught my team how to warm-up and properly stretch so during that first 15 minutes I could set up cones and any other equipment needed for the rest of practice. Each practice week would have a different set of skills we would focus on and the previous week’s focus would be integrated into the skills games.
Make it fun!
Soccer is a game and is meant to be enjoyed. I chose to integrate running and sprinting into the skills and endurance games we played rather than making them punishment. Instead of sprinting mindlessly we would play a game of cat and mouse where the “mouse” would get a head start and the cat would chase after and try to catch the mouse. Instilling this sense of fun in exercise is a great way to keep the kids’ attention during practice. Don’t forget to join in, lace up your cleats and run through all the drills and games so the players can visually understand what you are asking them to do.